(Un)wanted fungi!

Fungal contamination occurs regularly in worldwide animal feeds. Quality and safety of the processed feed remains a concern. The risks arise primarily from species and strains of fungi that are able to produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are harmful compounds that can negatively affect animal health.

The soil-borne fungi Fusarium produces the mycotoxins DON and ZEA. These mycotoxins remain inside the plant and seeds after harvesting and can still cause damage. Detecting a mycotoxin contamination is not always easy. Reduced fertility, deteriorated feed intake or a reduced resistance can indicate a mycotoxin contamination.

However, not all soil-borne fungi are harmful for example the mycorrhiza. A root fungus that forms a symbiotic association with plant roots. By attaching itself to the root the mycorrhiza forms an extensive network of fungal hyphae. Depending on its length, the mycorrhiza is able to collect immobilized soil nutrients and makes them available for the plant. In exchange for sugar the mycorrhiza provides the plant with phosphorus, water and micronutrients.

This soil-borne fungus does not only fulfil an important role in nature but also in agricultural crops. Wheat and corn successfully form a symbiotic relationship with the mycorrhiza. The fungus is essential for transportation of nutrients to the crop. Excessive use of fertilizers enables the root to no longer collaborate with the mycorrhiza. Understanding the balance of the soil and a deliberate fertilization plan contribute to sustainability.